GHS Labeling

As the new year gets underway, cleaning staff will see new changes in 2014 as manufacturers of commercial cleaning products and chemicals transition into a new global classification system for chemical hazard information. For cleaning staff in healthcare facilities, educational facilities, foodservice operations, and other industries and places of business, these changes will be seen on cleaning product labels and Safety Data Sheets (SDS) that better illustrate chemical hazard use, precautions and protection.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) in 1994 to help employees understand chemical hazards and appropriate measures of protection. Now, HCS has aligned with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) in an effort to standardize information about the proper handling and use of hazardous chemicals.

The benefit to cleaning employees and global commerce is a new system that is straightforward, providing better clarity for workers on chemical hazards. Labeling and Safety Data Sheets will be consistent from manufacturer to manufacturer whether in the United States or overseas. Ultimately, this will help improve worker safety with common pictograms and standardized information on labels as well as uniform SDSs.

Changes in Classification
The revised HCS outlines specific criteria for classification of health and physical hazards and classification of mixtures. Previously, chemical manufacturers and importers followed different classification systems, which led to the same substance from different vendors having variable hazard warnings on the labels.

Now, hazard classification will have the same requirements, globally.

New Product Labels
Cleaning professionals will begin to see more and more of these new product labels in the workplace, over the coming months and into 2015. The modified labels will include the following descriptions: product identifier (the chemical identity of the substance), pictograms (standardized symbols for hazards), signal word (the word “warning” or “danger” will advise of the severity of the hazard), hazard statements (to describe the nature of the hazardous product), precautionary statements (to minimize or prevent adverse effects from exposure) and name, address and telephone number of the responsible party.

The pictograms will be especially helpful in depicting hazards as these visual symbols break language barriers and will be easily recognizable and understandable, globally. Nine pictograms may appear on product labels, from a flame representing a flammable substance, among other hazards, to an exclamation mark representing an irritant to the skin and eye, among other hazards – all surrounded by a red border. To view the pictograms and the meanings behind each symbol, along with other label information, check out https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3636.pdf.

Revised Safety Data Sheets
Safety Data Sheets (formerly known as Material Safety Data Sheets) are filled with important information for employers and employees who handle, use and store cleaning products and chemicals. The new Safety Data Sheets have 16 standard sections, including: identification of the substance or mixture and supplier, hazards identification, composition/information on ingredients, first aid measures, firefighting measures, accidental release measures, handling and storage, exposure controls/personal protections, physical and chemical properties, stability and reactivity, toxicological information, ecological information, disposal considerations, transport information, regulatory information and other information, including date of preparation or last revision.

The standardized sections will be identical from company to company to provide ease of use and to further improve the employer and worker’s ability to understand hazards and measures of protection.

Employee Training
Since the new labels and SDSs could show up in the workplace anytime, OSHA set a deadline for employers to train employees on the revised product labels and SDS format by Dec. 1, 2013. Employees need to understand the new elements of the labels, as well as where to access and how to read the new Safety Data Sheets. For more information on training and materials, employers can log on to https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3642.pdf.

What’s Next?
Manufacturers of commercial cleaning products, like P&G Professional, are required to reclassify hazards and comply with the new format for product labels and Safety Data Sheets. The HCS phase-in date requires that all products shipped after June 1, 2015, be compliant. In line with that requirement, P&G Professional plans to roll out cleaning products with new labels and Safety Data Sheets later this year – well before the June 2015 deadline.

Going Global
The revised HCS allows for a global classification system that’s easier to understand, globally. Workers worldwide can look at the pictograms on the label and know what it means. Additionally, all the hazard information is in one spot on the label, making it simpler to find and review. Plus, SDSs have a new, consistent format to provide further information on chemicals and worker safety.

OSHA estimates that the new standard will impact more than 5 million workplaces in the United States and affect more than 43 million workers. By aligning with GHS, the revised HCS will benefit millions of workers with this standardized approach to chemical hazard information.

About Pete Self
Pete Self is a Principal Engineer with P&G Professional. He has worked in Research & Development with Procter & Gamble for 34 years, including 14 years with P&G Professional. He holds a degree in engineering from Georgia Tech.